The Consultation Paper considers the distribution of Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs), investigating how CSPs should be allocated including where to make a cut of 3000 CSPs – close to five percent of the current allocation. In our submission, we note that CSPs form a minority of postgraduate coursework places, with demand for postgraduate courses far exceeding current Government funding levels. We suggest that the CSP allocation for postgraduate degrees be based on criteria of exclusion rather than inclusion, where a case would have to be made for each excluded degree that it is not of sufficient benefit to merit Government funding. We also discuss adverse equity outcomes of inclusion criteria, and recommend that some funded places should be created for disadvantaged students if the Department proceeds with the suggestions they outline in the Consultation Paper. So as not to disadvantage current students, we outline that transitional arrangements should be implemented with the first removals of any CSPs to occur four years from now to allow students to complete their study plans. Finally, we voice our opposition to funding cuts to enabling courses.
On this basis, we have made the following recommendations:
Recommendation one: That the Government establish a review into postgraduate coursework fee regulation to explore options and to understand the impact of fee regulation on the higher education system.
Recommendation two: That the 3000 discontinued CSPs be returned to the allocation pool, in the short-term.
Recommendation three: That CSP allocation be determined on exclusion rather than inclusion criteria, with the number of CSPs increased.
Recommendation four: That some CSPs are reserved for disadvantaged postgraduate students in otherwise full-fee paying courses, in order to offset negative equity outcomes of the allocation criteria.
Recommendation five: That any reductions in the allocation of CSPs for particular courses be implemented in 2023 or later, so as not to disadvantage current undergraduate students under the “Melbourne model”.
Recommendation six: That demand-driven funding arrangements be implemented for enabling courses.